UBB miners remembered in Whitesville ceremony

Register-Herald photo by Brad Davis Beckley Fire Department Lt. Ernie Parsons rings a bell for each of the 29 miners’ names as they’re read aloud by relative Kenneth Price (far right) during a memorial ceremony Sunday afternoon in downtown Beckley. The fifth-year anniversary of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion was a somber one, with victims’ family members paying respects and shedding tears as they viewed the memorial. Price’s brother Joel, a shearer operator, was one of those men.
Register-Herald photo by Brad Davis Beckley Fire Department Lt. Ernie Parsons rings a bell for each of the 29 miners’ names as they’re read aloud by relative Kenneth Price (far right) during a memorial ceremony Sunday afternoon in downtown Beckley. The fifth-year anniversary of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion was a somber one, with victims’ family members paying respects and shedding tears as they viewed the memorial. Price’s brother Joel, a shearer operator, was one of those men.
Register-Herald photo by Brad Davis
Beckley Fire Department Lt. Ernie Parsons rings a bell for each of the 29 miners’ names as they’re read aloud by relative Kenneth Price (far right) during a memorial ceremony Sunday afternoon in downtown Beckley. The fifth-year anniversary of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion was a somber one, with victims’ family members paying respects and shedding tears as they viewed the memorial. Price’s brother Joel, a shearer operator, was one of those men.

WHITESVILLE, W.Va. — Even the birds were silent Sunday.

A quietness engulfed this hollow on the fifth anniversary of Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine explosion, where 29 miners perished and mine safety finally came to the forefront.

 Buicks and pickups parked, many mourners walked with the aid of canes or their partners to a roadside memorial of what happened on that Monday afternoon five years ago Sunday. Triggered by a spark from a piece of mining equipment and fueled by coal dust, the explosion ripped through the UBB coal mine in Montcoal. The rescue and recovery effort lasted days after the blast as the country watched on television wondering how it could have happened again in West Virginia, only a few years after Sago.

Along W.Va. 3 — Coal River Road — American flags blew in the breeze Sunday. Debris from recent flooding was visible from the road, and the Big Coal River rapidly flowed. At the memorial simple wreaths were placed to remember the miners and mourners placed small trinkets under the words echoing Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who labor, and I will give you rest.” Twenty-nine silhouettes of miners are standing with hard hats on ready to go underground.

Women and men stopped and bowed their heads. A few made the sign of the cross; others just whispered a prayer or gently touched the memorial before walking on. Some returned to their cars and drove off; others sat in the open looking up at the soon-to-be verdant mountains. Ironically, those mountains are why miners continue to go underground.

It could be argued the mourners were pilgrims, travelers on a journey to a holy place. Five miles from the memorial site is the actual mine where the worst mining disaster in four decades occurred…

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